Tricky Lighting a.k.a Concerts UPDATED w/ New Video

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Exposing for a concert performance is tricky. The contrast from light to dark is so broad that no camera really has the dynamic range to capture the things that go on in the shadows. So the choice is easy, you have the expose for the subject. Well, okay you could spot meter but you must have the hottest spotlight shining on your subject. Well stage lights flash and move, so there’s quite a bit of guessing involved and reliance on experience. Whatever I think is proper exposure in those situations I’ll go bit under because you can’t bring blown highlights back to life but you can bring up shadows a little. You’ll introduce noise most likely but it’s definitely the lesser of the two evils.

In a perfect world, there are sound checks and rehearsals that will allow you to get an idea for the lighting situation so you can really nail your exposure. It’s funny to think that in the dark venues of concerts fast lenses don’t matter as much. You’re exposing for the subject and thus relying on the spotlights, which are pretty bright. In that respect I could have achieved the same results at f4. As it were, my angles (the wide floor level and the stabilized telephoto, both 5d mark iii’s) were shot at f2.8 with an iso of 1250. Shutter speeds were at 1/50th of a second. There was a 3rd camera which got great angles and good energy but I believe he tried to expose for the scene. The results were blown highlights in the face, blown highlights in on white t-shirts, and noisy footage in the shadow. In post you can’t recover the highlights so faces, towels and shirts end up with no detail but you can crush the shadows a bit to hide the noise and add some grain later. Some of these entry level Canon cameras, like the t2i that the 3rd angle was shot with) have more of a video type noise rather than a fine film grain that happens with bodies like BMCC, C300 or 1dc, etc.

This was a quick full performance edit, just a bit of sharpening and little bit of grain, and a more substantial edit will follow. The photo was taken with a single flash, more on that later as well. Taking a keen interest in photography has helped my filmmaking in many ways.

Check out Richie FaReal’s music here. He’s “a real dope rapper” (8 mile reference!). The venue was at Oakland Grand Live and Richie made a special guest appearance on Tony Cassanova’s track J.M.H.K. Watch they’re music here.

Thanks to www.richiefareal.com for the accommodations.

Update: Second Show

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Comedically Musical – Good Times

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My first clients were a team of great producers that called themselves the Frat. They wanted to do an “Office” style take on the lives of being music producers and the struggles they encounter working with each other. The two stars were Serge1beats who assumed the “Diva” role and Mark aka “HiDef” played the workhorse, straight man. I use the word “played” loosely as often times their real comedic selves would shine through. Some of the best stuff happened off of improv, in fact that’s what it was. Improv shot like “The Office.” It’s seems as though they certainly could have a career doing just that, snapping witty insults along the way.

Everything was captured with either a Canon 5d Mark iii or 7d. Shot in Cinestyle, graded and chopped in FCPX. If I could go back I’d have just shot it in Neutral as I noticed that’s where my grading ended up most of the time. Plus, we get a little less noise in the shadows and more importantly it saves some time. If I really could revert time, I’d have suggested (come to think of it, they may have) re-shooting the interviews in episode 1. It’s painful now to see how underexposed I was during those segments, slightly confused by the backlight throwing off the meter and how bad the preamps are on the 5d.

I’ve since learned to never trust the back of the LCD screen and to get hot mics. The Rode Video Mic Pro has a +20db setting that allows me to dial the gain on the 5d all the way down. This results in substantially less noise versus setting the mic at 0db and pumping up the gain on the 5d to reach the same peaks. Now that I do a lot of interviews I sought after the Sennheiser G3 for my wireless lavalier solution for that reason. In both the transmitter and receiver I can crank up the sensitivity of the mics and not have to rely on the preamps on the camera. Normally, I’d record into a dedicated unit like the Tascam DR-40 (great because you can automatically record a second “safety track” at -6db, or whatever level you desire) but it’s awesome to have in run n gun situations. I shot footage for a kickstarter campaign and it was great to mount the G3 on the hotshoe of the 5d and not have to sync audio later.

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I’m ten times better, more experienced and more efficient now and the technical stuff does bother me. However, as a great example of content trumping all, I found myself still thoroughly entertained and laughing when watching these two interact with each other.

Here’s everything shot from the teasers, trailers, horribly shot episode #1, and some pieces that to me will always make me laugh.

Mark really is a talented musician, I especially like his reggae mixes. Check them out HERE:

Make ’em See – Music by Richie FaReal

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Richie FaReal is a super talented musician. He’s a songwriter/producer/rapper with music that I actually listen to which is a bonus not to have to generate love for a project.  Over the span of two days we maneuvered across San Francisco finding locations to shoot. My goal is always to capture the most minimalistic, clean and sharp images but this project organically turned into something that I thought was better suited to view as desaturated, black & white, gritty and grainy. Most of the performance was shot months ago but scheduling conflicts kept me from completing this. Richie and his manager did an outstanding job creating an official music video (here) that Richie actually heavily edited himself, talented guy. A window opened up and I wanted to complete what I started and here’s the result.

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Since the official version was so clean and elegant, I thought we would go for the opposite, which became the goal months after the first day of shooting. Everything was captured with a Canon 5d Mark iii in plain h.264 with Cinestyle as the picture profile. A variety of lenses were used including the 50 1.2, 16-35 2.8 ii, 135 f2, 24-105 f4 and 100 2.8 macro is. We occasionally used a 160 led lite panel, especially for the performance sequence with smoke. Richie was completely backlit for that with a second lite panel used for fill. I shot as high iso 6400 and was wide open most of the time. We also drove around San Francisco with a Canon EOS M suction cupped to the rear passenger window. The Manfrotto Fig Rig got a lot of play during walking shots. Otherwise things were kept minimal incase we needed to run!

My favorite lens was the Canon 135 f2l, the bokeh is perfectly round and the out of focus bits looks sort of anamorphic-ally stretched. Everything was loaded into FCPX and synced with Plural Eyes 3. Color Grading was kept to a minimum, as I prefer Cinestyle’s flat look in the instance. So I desaturated the shadows and performed a Black and White conversion to a few of the angles. Worked with the red channel for the conversion and and applied a LUT s-curve to them as b&w lends itself nicely to contrasty footage. Added a touch of grain and then some more. Two levels of sharpening, USM and FCPX sharpen tool.

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You can download Richie’s music for FREE over HERE.

A Real Life Warrior

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I got an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. A long time ago my dad brought home UFC 1 when it was banned years ago and we became fans from the beginning. This was when people came in with styles like ninjitsu and sumo. No gloves, no rules. I’ve been following the sport since. Film editing has been an adventure and I wouldn’t trade it right now for anything, but the hours are crazy! 10 – 14 hours a day on the same chair. So when a free day rolls around I’m all for it. “IT” means, in my case, a full on assault on doing nothing.

The opportunity came in the form of a UFC fighter that wanted to do a video, updating friends, family and fans on his progress from an injury. I decided to take my one free day to travel to meet him. It was a gruesome injury that blew out his knee. The warrior he was had no doubts that rehab was the next step because there wasn’t a question as to if he wanted to fight again. I’d have my doubts. He didn’t.

Josh Clopton moved to San Francisco, specifically to train with his idol, Gilbert Melendez at El Nino Training Facility. It’s an awesome location and everyone there was super friendly. Gilbert was even there fresh off his championship match with Benson Henderson to lend some words to Josh. For those that don’t know, Gilbert along with Jake Shields and the Diaz brothers form the skrap pack. It’s a highly successful group of crowned MMA fighters that fought in Strikeforce and now the UFC. It’s a testament to the skill level Josh is at that he is a part of this elite group.

A former IT guy from a small town, Josh made it The Ultimate Fighter television series and the UFC. From what I can tell, his work ethic is unbelievable. His will is undeniable. Upon meeting, I realized I towered over him (I stand 6’3″). A part of me thought, I could easily land a take down and turn this guy’s lights out. Then we filmed a section of him on the heavy bag. That part of me quickly left. Any thoughts like that ran away with dust trails. This guy is a beast.

I filmed this piece with the 5d mark iii as my main camera, still hesitant to shoot RAW on a gig like this. I used the 7d with a 50 1.2 for parts of the interview portion. Audio was captured with a Sennheiser G3 or a Rode VideoMic Pro. Other lenses I used were the 70-200 2.8L is ii and the 16-35 2.8L ii. The telephoto was good for the main interview shot, it condenses the background, and gives a nice bokeh for a very cinematic look. The wide angle paired with the Manfrotto Fig Rig was great for the training shots where I circled Josh while he shadow boxed. I love the steadicam look but don’t ever have the time to balance it. I decided on the Fig Rig because I can achieve similar shots but it’s super quick to attach a camera to it since I’m in the Manfrotto system and everything I have has a quick release. The outdoor shots at night were done with the 50 1.2 wide open with the 5d Mark 3 at iso 6400. No denoise applied. Not bad! Josh liked this song called Saturday NIght by Travis Barker and wanted to integrate that into the video. I also liked the Warrior soundtrack and thought it was a fitting, albeit obvious, backdrop to the initial arc of the story. I shot this thing at 7pm and finished editing at 3:30am the next morning.

The important part was the story. Josh has an inspiring one. I’m a fan of his and will be rooting for him come August 3, 2013 when he flies to Rio De Janeiro for his fight at UFC 163.

Please check out the video and hit the Like button. Thanks!

Director’s Version:
Saturday Night is a great song that fits nicely with the message Josh has. In this case I wanted to the feel of the opening soundtrack to permeate through to the end. I also desaturated the highlights and blacks while boosting the midtones. Finally, a small touch of film grain. I thought overall it gives it a more dramatic and cinematic tone.

It’s all about the lenses?

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I count five. Maybe six conversations I had with myself on the drive up to purchase the Canon 70-200 2.8l is ii. I had the mark i version. It was heralded, legendary and considered the best. The mark ii was considered better, more consistent sharpness throughout the entire range but was nearly twice as expensive. Also, we’re talking stills. This would probably be a no brainer, resolving power for a lens can be seen easily when looking at a raw still file. Would I be able to tell the difference when shooting video, which is what I use all my gear for. Could lenses make a difference on an image that isn’t even really true 1080p?

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From the pictures above I think it’s safe to say yes. The top one was the original mark i. This was shot at 200mm on a 5d mark 3 wide open. I took a screen shot from the .mov file. The mark ii is sharper with better microcontrast. Now that the most pressing question was answered a new one propped up. Could I have saved the money and just sharpened the image in post. I loaded the clips into FCPX and ran an unsharp mask and a sharpen filter on top of that.

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It’s closer, but not quite. If I sharpened it further, I would have gotta some pronounced, sharpened noise as well. The mark i is the top one by the way.  The 70-200 range is great for getting that cinematic compressed background look. The mark ii focuses closer which comes in handy indoors. I couldn’t tell the difference when it comes to stabilization ro build quality. Lastly, you can still sharpen the mark ii.

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Good call on the upgrade, right? Mike, hello?

The Frat TV Season 1

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I have to bite my hand to keep from laughing, shaking the monopod and ruining a shot. Everytime I film these guys. Everytime. They are the some of the funniest, off the cuff, wittiest people I have ever met. They are music producers. They are the Frat.

This is the trailer. We have 5 episodes in the wraps. They will be released 2 weeks apart from each other. It was and is a great privilege to work with artists that I myself would listen to, without having that connection. Most of all I like to laugh and they make me.

They are a serious bunch when it comes to music and I believe they are super talented and on the rise. Please stay tuned, like, subscribe and support them.

Melissa’s Story

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I’ve been working for the Be You Campaign over the past few months. So let’s get this out of the way, it’s so much nicer when work leads to good things for others. I believe that the founder, Tisa, is genuine in her drive to help others that are struggling. Whether it be from rape, cutting, or bullying. I recently saw the Bully documentary and it was dumbfounding. It’s sad and I’m glad that there are forums for this type of thing. I’m glad that I can be a part of such a forum.

Down to the nitty gritty. I shot this piece on a couple Canon cameras. For those that follow my blog, I’ve been an avid Sony supporter. From the a300 to the a57 to the a77. The natural progression would have been the a99. I was in the market for a full frame camera and the video results just didn’t cut it for me. Sorry Sony. The moire and aliasing, the lack of deep depth of field and responsiveness to sharpening made me look elsewhere. I had a GH2 and though it is superior to the 5d mark iii in resolved lines, I wanted the full frame look (to make shallow shots easier to achieve at more angles and distances) and good low-light. I’m able to shoot at 6400 with minimal noise, get shallow below 30mm and sharpen to ridiculous amounts in post.

The set-up I used was dual. I had a 7d on a monopod with a 50mm and ND. On sticks I had the 5d with the 17-40mm at f11. I captured audio through a lav attached to a Zoom H2 (forgot to hide the wire!!!!!) and had back-up with the Rode Video Mic Pro set to +20db connected to the 5d at a little past 0. Everything was shot with the CineStyle picture profile and graded within FCPX. The sparrows were added in post.

That’s pretty much it! I really enjoyed working with Melissa and she is a bright, young woman with a great attitude. We had to stop something like 8 times as people drove by because they knew her. So popular! I don’t have nearly as many friends. Very sad. Is it me? I might need help. What’s that website again?

www.beyoucampaign.com

You’re damn right I did.

Work, Work, Work

Wow. Time passed by quick. Half the month is over and I haven’t posted in the new year. My apologies. I’ve now filled all seven days of the week with work, multiple jobs on most days, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I my anxiety levels are going through the roof. I want to do well but sometimes I feel like I’m spreading myself thin and the quality of work suffers. I hope everyone’s happy.

I’ve been getting just a few hours of sleep and came across Phillip Bloom’s recent post here. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have more work than less, and it’s amazing that I get work with amazingly talented and genuine people, but his story makes you think. Maybe it’s just because I look up to the guy and his talent. For now, as long as I stay focused on the moment, it’s wonderful.

I’m working with an uber-talented squad of musicians. They’ve aspired to make some monthly web episodes to highlight what a hilarious bunch they are. Here’s a test run of the opener. Full pilot episode should air Monday. I wanted a Leverne and Shirley vibe but they opted for this.

They cut that track and it’s huge bonus to work with artists that produce music you would buy.

Here’s what the pilot episode’s timeline looks right now. I prefer FCPX’s workflow but it’s a pain sometimes.

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Stay Tuned but check them out here for now:

Thefratmusic.tumblr.com
Thefratmusic.com
@thefratmusic on twitter

L!

Picked up the Canon 17-40 f4L from a photog in San Jose. He’s got a great studio in downtown. My rule of thumb, if a dude has Steven Seagal’s pony tail, he’s probably really cool. Snapped a couple pics, pulled up camera raw, here you go. This should tide the blog over until New Years. I’m glad we made it passed the Apocalypse, sad that we didn’t have a Zombie invasion. I’ve been stocking up, working out, and mapping my route to Costco. Oh well…

Shot everything wide open at 17mm on a 5d m3 (i know…) and tossed in the originals just because.

After:

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Before:

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After:

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Before:

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